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Vermont Guard members head to Texas

MONTPELIER — Four members of the Vermont National Guard are heading to Texas this week to provide communications assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, said the four-person public affairs team are from the Vermont Army and Air National Guard. They will be stationed at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Cray said they are heading to Texas at the request of the Texas National Guard and will provide public affairs support to the Defense Support of Civil Authority mission and conduct media operations. Continue Reading →

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Scott: State won’t seek armored vehicles, high-powered weapons from U.S. military

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking any armored vehicles or other heavy-duty equipment from the U.S. military after President Donald Trump eased restrictions on police departments earlier this week. The Republican president signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. The so-called 1033 Program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. The Obama administration created a list of prohibited military equipment that police could no longer receive, including armored vehicles on tracks and other weaponized vehicles, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. Another list of controlled equipment, such as aircraft, explosives and riot gear, required police agencies to show a specific need before it was handed over. Continue Reading →

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Vermont water rescue team heads to Texas

COLCHESTER — A Vermont swift water rescue team deployed to Texas Thursday on a 12-day mission to help with the rescue efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott participated in a sendoff event Thursday morning for the Vermont Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue Team. They will help with evacuations and rescues in flooded parts of Texas after Harvey dumped dozens of inches of water on some areas of the state. The 15-member contingent from the 90-strong task force will take two days to drive to Texas with their equipment and two days to return. “This is what makes me so very proud as governor. Continue Reading →

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Police weigh Trump order on military equipment

MONTPELIER — Heavy-duty military equipment, including armored vehicles and grenade launchers, may soon be available again to Vermont police departments after the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era ban on their distribution — but some municipal agencies say they aren’t interested. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. That program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. “The recommendations issued pursuant to Executive Order 13688 do not reflect the policy of the executive branch,” Trump’s new order reads. “All executive departments and agencies are directed, as of the date of this order and consistent with Federal law, to cease implementing those recommendations and, if necessary, to take prompt action to rescind any rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing them.”

The Obama administration, after review by a working group, created a list of prohibited equipment that would no longer available to police. Continue Reading →

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Police promise more visibility following spate of fatal crashes

WATERBURY — Top law enforcement officials are promising more visibility on Vermont roads after a spate of fatal crashes in recent days that have left eight people dead. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson joined state, county and local law enforcement officials at a news conference Tuesday to highlight their efforts to improve highway safety throughout the state. The news conference followed a several-day period that saw three fatal crashes, including one in Bridport Monday that resulted in four fatalities. “It’s been a tragic few days on Vermont’s roadways,” Anderson said. Gov. Phil Scott also noted the uptick in fatalities in a statement. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes marijuana legalization bill with tax-and-regulate language

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate, frustrated by inaction in the House and hoping to apply pressure on the chamber down the hall, advanced a seed-to-sale marijuana legalization bill Friday by a veto-proof margin. The action in the Senate Friday was no surprise — members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday a plan to amend a House bill to include language creating a tax-and-regulate legal marijuana market in Vermont. After clearing procedural hurdles, the effort prevailed on a 21 to 9 vote — large enough to override a potential veto by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, was the lead sponsor of the amendment that mimics legislation passed last year by the Senate, but failed spectacularly in the House. Members of the Senate were expecting the House to pass its own version of marijuana legalization this year, but that effort stalled when the bill made it to the House only to be jettisoned by Democratic leaders in the House back to committee because it lacked the votes to pass. Continue Reading →

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Scott signs immigration bill into law as Trump administration cracks down

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, flanked by Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Democratic lawmakers, signed into law Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing the impacts of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in January. The signing comes just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the daily White House briefing a crackdown by the Trump administration on jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people they may want to take custody of. Such jurisdictions have been commonly referred to as sanctuary cities or states, but there is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction. The bill signed into law Tuesday, S.79, grants Scott as governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to deputize local, county or state law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law. Scott said the law is necessary because the president’s executive orders indicate “a shift in federal policy in the areas of immigration and border security.”

“The executive orders indicate the federal government will seek agreements and engage with the states to perform immigration enforcement functions that are the responsibility of the federal government. Continue Reading →

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Gun-seizure bill advances in House

MONTPELIER — Following hours of tense — sometimes terse — debate, the Vermont House advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow police to temporarily seize guns from accused domestic abusers. The House gave the legislation preliminary approval on a voice vote to the measure, H.422, after voting 78-67 to approve the House Judiciary Committee’s changes. It will be up for final passage today. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms from the homes of those accused of domestic violence for up to five days. Despite finding enough support to pass the House, its prospects in the Senate appear murky. Continue Reading →

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Immigration issue splits House GOP caucus

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House advanced legislation aimed at preventing local law enforcement from participating in federal immigration enforcement in a vote that split the Republican caucus with half going against a popular governor from their own party. The bill, S.79, has been pushed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tripartisan group of lawmakers in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump dealing with immigration and border security. It received preliminary approval in the House Tuesday on a 110-24 vote, with 24 Republicans voting against it. The bill originated in the Senate where it passed 30-0 and was unchanged by the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Newfane, the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues the legislation is “not about immigration” at the state level. Continue Reading →

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Donovan offers advice on immigration issues

MONTPELIER— Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan issued guidance to local municipalities Monday aimed at helping them address legal issues regarding immigration that have emerged since Republican President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders dealing with immigration and border security earlier this year. The memo to Vermont cities and towns released by Donovan on Monday provides background information on existing state and federal laws and explains the consequences of violating them. A number of towns across the state will consider new immigration policies Tuesday at their Town Meeting Day gatherings. Adopting so-called sanctuary status, meaning local communities would flout federal immigration law, could have consequences, he said. One of the president’s January executive orders threatens to eliminate federal money for localities that violate federal immigration law. Continue Reading →

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